Human Resources News & Insights

Dealing with angry employees: 4 tips for managers

We’ve never heard a manager grouse about a shortage of employee complaints. We’ve heard a few moan about how to handle those complaints, however.  

Whether it’s concerns over schedules, disputes over job assignments or just disputes with co-workers, these conversations can get heated from time to time.

What should managers do when a normal interaction gets hot and turns into an argument?

They can try these four steps to keep a discussion cool:

1. Let the person vent

Managers should show empathy by saying something like, “I’d be upset too if I was dealing with this” or “I get why you’re frustrated about the situation.”

Important: Don’t take the anger personally. They’re just venting about a problem.

It’s also best to try not to interrupt while they’re venting. Listen to the key points while they’re getting it off their chest.

2. Repeat after me

Once he or she is done speaking, the manager should paraphrase and repeat back what they think they heard.

Example: “If I heard you correctly, the problem is X and you need Y done about it.”

This prevents any further miscommunication and lets the employee know the manager’s really listening.

3. Be real

There may not be an easy solution that managers can come up with right away.

So the supervisor should ask them what kind of resolution the employee’d like in the meantime.

It may be an easy fix that satisfies them for the time being, such as getting another department “off their backs” on a group project.

If managers can’t facilitate the request, the boss should explain why.

4. If necessary, end it

With the vast majority of the human population, these steps will defuse the situation.

But there are always a few folks who won’t calm down and act rationally.

The manager can respond with something like this: “I can’t continue talking if you won’t calm down. Maybe we can discuss this later.”

If that doesn’t do the trick, the supervisor needs to end it then and there – a good tactic is to stand up, which normally indicates a conversation is ending. If that doesn’t work, sometimes the manager simply needs to leave the room.

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